Slice of Life Story - A Little Distance Helps
I have been thinking about the effects of distance…
In my final year of high school I travelled to
Central Australia with
my teachers and classmates and in that vast remote space experienced the night
sky in a manner I could never have imagined.
One evening, in the middle of the
Simpson Desert, we were camped adjacent
to an artesian waterhole situated on a gibber plain. ‘Gibber’ is an aboriginal
word loosely translating to ‘stones able to be picked up in the hand and
thrown,’ -so the surrounding landscape was a carpet of small stones stretching
to the horizon. In that isolated location, so removed from the city, the night
sky put on a display forever etched in my memory bank. The stars shone with an
intensity I had never previously experienced. A star garden of luminous quality
greeted our collective eyes as we stood gazing into the darkness. The moon and
the stars illuminated the gibber plain, transforming it into an illusionary
world of snow. A trick of the light? Absolutely!
But, mesmerizingly beautiful at the exact same time.
Here we were, in the middle of an immense island continent, a world away from civilization and its associated pollutants and manmade illuminations, witnessing a night sky of clear and unadulterated intensity. A collective wow echoed across the desert darkness. The distance had provided a rare opportunity to view the stars in a way city dwellers could never easily comprehend. The distance between this place and civilization had enabled an unparalleled view of the stars. They glowed with sparkling clarity. A view of the heavens few appreciate. This was how the ancients saw the stars. This was special. We were staring at superstars in every true sense. I understand what it means to be a star gazer. As the saying goes, you had to be there…
Over the last decade I have travelled extensively in my work as well as for relaxation and enjoyment. It has taken me to many different world locations and provided insights and adventures. My thirst to explore and learn more remains unquenched. However, as much as I love these privileged opportunities, I am always grateful to return home; to touch base with my regular surroundings. My home and my heart remain anchored in the place I call home. It is the distances I travel that add to my appreciation of my special place on the planet. Going away, makes coming home an extra reward for taking the journey. The distance I create between my temporary location and my heart’s home serves to reinforce the relative importance of home. My perspective is enhanced. The familiar is viewed with fresh appreciation. I cease to take it for granted. The distance provides some acuity. The image of my home base now sharpened allows me to view it with a keener eye. It is a place in my heart, afterall.
While living in
, I visited the
famous Metropolitan Museum of Art on numerous occasions. On one such visit I found myself standing in
front of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Irises.’ This
painting was in fact one of a series Van Gogh created. It shows irises in a
vase with a pink background. With time the pink had faded to almost white. My
first reaction was to the size of the painting, It was much smaller than I had
imagined. I initially viewed at close range.
However, it was when I stepped back a little I began to more fully
appreciate the beautiful depiction the troubled painter had created. The full
impact of the artist’s delicate shaping of the irises could now be full
appreciated. A step back, some added distance, had sharpened my vision.
Everything became clear. New York
As a writer, the notion of distance is critical. There are times when I need to step back from my writing to view it more clearly. -To understand the words that initially hit the page. Does what I have written match the vision I had in my head, -my plan for the words and their shape upon the page? Is this the intended message? By distancing myself for an hour, a day even, I am often better able to appreciate what needs to happen next. Creating distance enables me to return with fresh perspective. I see things as they really are; less emotionally.
I once wrote a poem about ‘Sneakers’ and couldn’t find a suitable ending. I was becoming frustrated. Nothing seemed to be working. I was forcing the words out and they were not landing in the right place. Eventually I put the poem away and went on with some unrelated reading. I took the dog for a walk along the beach. When I returned, I knew exactly how to finish the poem. It was as if the problem had resolved itself in the time I had been away. The distance I had placed between myself and the poem had been productive. My head was clear, my vision restored, and the words presented themselves willingly. Occasionally putting distance between yourself and your writing can prove quite fruitful.
“If you’ve never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame’
From Mrs Potter’s Lullaby